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The Great Mail Hassle

We were having CATALOGS sent to subscribers 3rd Class mail, aptly named junk mail. Gradually we learned that delivery to the East Coast was taking up to six weeks, when delivery occurred at all. Subscribers were patient and amused, considering ("Got Catalog in January. Somewhere in transit the Post Office tried to see if it would float."), but we were getting desperate.

Our local post office pointed out that we qualified for Second Class mail privileges, which would give the much faster service that other periodicals get?more reliable too, maybe. So we applied and tried to explain that despite the name, we are not technically a catalog, not by Post Office rules, having to do with content, subscribers, advertising, newsstand sales, etc. nor by commercial intent. We are a periodical, in spirit and letter.

The application came back. We asked why. "Catalogs go 3rd Class." "It's not," we said "a Catalog." "It says WHOLE EARTH CATALOG on the cover." "The Rolling Stone," said Dick Raymond, "is not a stone. We didn't know about Post Office classifications when we named our publication." "Catalogs go Third Class.

I was ready to burn a flag to the deity of General Semantics when Dick Raymond came up with a concept so original it took my breath away:  call our Congressman, our representative in the Federal Government, Dick had worked on our Congressman's successful campaign; that might count for something.

It did. The gent who beat Shirley Temple Black, a Republican named Pete McCloskey, foe of the Vietnam War, friend of environmental issues, very capable cat, checked with the mail classifications off ice in D.C. and suggested we appeal our case to them. Meanwhile we would get "2nd Class Pending" service from Post Office.

With amazing speed our appeal came back from Washington, refused this time because sometimes the publication was titled "Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog"?making it two publications, in their eyes, neither published often enough to qualify as a periodical.

Ever ready to compromise on empty issues, we re-applied with the explanation that "Supplement" had been dropped and we were publishing six Whole Earth Catalogs a year (as always), and like other magazines they would have varying sizes and prices at different times of the year. No answer as yet.

If we get the 2nd Class classification, mailing will cost a little less than 3rd Class, but we would gladly pay 3rd Class rates, or worse, if we could get 2nd Class service. When you have 6000-7000 subscribers, you give good service or you get crushed by bad karma. I wonder if the Post Office never feels that way about taxpayers.